How to Make Irish Coffee

Art of the Cocktail, Beer & Cocktails, Beverages, Coffee, Coffee & Tea, Drink, Entertain, Holidays, St. Patrick's Day

Learn how the Buena Vista makes its world-famous Irish coffee!

Even if you don’t have time to celebrate the luck of the Irish with a full plate of corned beef and cabbage today, you can probably still find time to unwind with an Irish coffee.


Irish coffee was invented at Ireland’s Shannon airport in the 1940s, and brought back to the United States by way of San Francisco in 1952, when a travel writer worked with the owners of The Buena Vista to begin serving it to customers. It’s still a bestselling item there today.


The Buena Vista is just a hop and a skip from Williams-Sonoma headquarters, so we popped over there to show you how Irish coffee is made.


Step 1: Preheat the glass.


Preheat a glass, or glasses, by filling them to the top with very hot water, then emptying them after a few seconds.



Step 2: Add in sugar cubes.


Two sugar cubes—or two teaspoons of sugar—per glass should do it. Then fill your glass with fresh hot coffee until it’s about three-quarters full.


Step 3: Give it a good stir.


Stir with a spoon until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved.


Step 4: Make it Irish!


Now for the good part: Add a full jigger of Irish whiskey for, as the Buena Vista likes to say, “proper taste and body.” At the Buena Vista, as it’s served in Shannon, they use a select Irish whiskey blended from column-stilled and pot-stilled whiskeys.


Step 5: Add the cream.


Top each glass with a collar of lightly-whipped whipping cream; float the cream by pouring it gently over a spoon. Enjoy it right away, while it’s still piping hot!


See our favorite Buena Vista barman, John, in action making a batch of Irish coffees below.


7 comments about “How to Make Irish Coffee

  1. I LOVE LISTS - Shutterbean

  2. Courtney F

    O.M.G.!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every single time we are in SF, we take the cable car to Buena Vista for Irish coffees when they first open in the morning. It is the most perfect tradition: misty, foggy, blurry-eyed morning SF and a perfectly made Irish coffee! … Gotta go … and make a flight reservation for SF :o) LOL!!

  3. Mary Johnson

    When I first arrived in SF, women had to have a male escort in order to enter the Buena Vista. The Irish Coffee’s were exceptional!!!

  4. What Is a Full Irish Breakfast? | Williams Sonoma Taste

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